STAR TREK: DISCOVERY
SPOILERS AHEAD … AND THE WARMTH OR TRUE CAMARADERIE AND A PLACE TO CALL HOME
It’s rare to find a show that evokes a sense of camaraderie and belonging the way Star Trek: Discovery does.
Truth be told, a bold, enduring sense of “made family” has always been a hallmark of the franchise with every iteration singing from the same “I’ve got your back, you’ve got mine and I love you as a friend and comrade” song sheet but there is something about Discovery, bolstered by superbly nuanced writing and acting that is more than a cut above average, that makes it all the more noticeable.
This is especially the case with “People of Earth” where Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is reunited, after a year long separation from Discovery who took a tad longer to shoot into the future than she did, with her beloved crewmates.
The moment where Michael walks into the waiting arms of Saru (Doug Jones), Tilly (Mary Wiseman), Paul (Anthony Rapp), Kyla (Emily Coutts) et al. is a thing of deeply affecting beauty.
Who among us hasn’t felt a transcendent surge of joy upon seeing friends and family we love more than life itself and be so grateful than the time of separation hasn’t turned out to be a permanent one?
Michael for her part had had to make accommodation with the fact that she might never see her Discovery family again as she spent the year as a courier, much like her now friend (and of course, more, c’mon guys Cupid is practically floating in the air behind you) Booker, played with sparkling warmth and roguish likeability by David Ajala, and so when she found them at the end of episode 2 and then was back in their physical presence a scant episode later, the joy is relatable and palpable.
It makes sense, beyond the simple act of finding her crewmates, that this would mean so much to all concerned.
After all, they are literally a people apart, thrown almost 1000 years away from friends and family who are, Tilly tearfully admits to Michael in a private conversation following the big group hug, all dead and gone, giving them no anchor points in an unexpected, broken future other than each other.
So their relationships with each other matter even more than they did back in their normal time and “People of Earth” evokes that reality with moving power so great that if you’re not crying by the end of the scene, your heart is likely made of solid dilithium.
Tilly brutally brought to the fore what a challenge this mission is for everyone; yes, they willingly committed to it and have no regrets about their decision BUT some are coping better than others with Tilly tearful about whether there is anything in this time that is familiar – a homemade hummingbird cake make or perhaps the pyramids of Giza are still standing?
She, like the others, needs something concrete and familiar to make this time feel even remotely like home, beyond the people she loves like family around her, and “People of Earth” beautifully gives her, Keyla, Gen (Patrick Kowk-Choon), R.A. (Ronnie Rowe Jr.), Joann (Oyin Oladejo) and Nilsson (Sara Mitich) exactly that when they finally make it to Earth and can walk through the grounds, and to one tree in particular where they all used to study, on what used to be Starfleet HQ.
That piece of news brings us to the other major narrative driver of the episode, which is the fact the Earth, forced to deal some two centuries earlier with the loss of the Federation after “The Burn” turned the dilithium in active warp drives explosive and killed off speeding through the galaxy as an option, is now effectively a hermit planet hiding behind fearsomely good shields.
On the one hand, hurrah for Earth surviving and thriving but all those people like Tilly et al. who needed their home planet to throw out the welcome mat, suddenly find themselves confronted by a world they no longer recognise and which manifestly does not want them.
This is where “People of Earth” excels once again, bringing forth the very best ideals of Star Trek, the ones that have endeared the franchise to a legion of fans throughout the year and which everyone in the future, bar the true believers like outpost commander Aditya Sahil (Adil Hussain) in “That Hope is You, Pt. 1” or Admiral Tal (the crew hear his message but it turns out he both dead and alive, his trill symbiont now in the body of a 16-year-old named Adira, played by Blu del Barrio), have consigned to history.
But Discovery is here now, full to brimming with idealistic Starfleeters and in an evocative scene they bring together the head of earth defenses, Captian Ndoye (Phumzile Sitole) and pirateer and raider Wen (Christopher Heyerdahl), previously at loggerheads, to hammer out a peace that won’t just stop the fighting but be to the benefit of both parties.
It’s a classic Star Trek moment that speaks to the fact that Discovery’s presence in the future is simply a lovely, heartwarming idea but could be the catalyst for the return of everything the Federation stood for in a not-too-distant past.
As episodes go, “People of Earth” is a standout even for an already strong season, bringing together the franchise’s ideals and sense of family together in powerfully affecting ways and setting up the rest of the season to be one of the strongest yet, not just for Discovery but for any Star Trek series.
SPOILERS AHEAD … AND DRAGON STEAKS FOR EVERYONE!
In a development bound to confuse any of a certain age who has only ever known programs to arrive in season-long batches, season 2 of The Mandalorian debuted on 30th October with just the opening episode, exactly as the first season did.
It may seem like a weird way to tell a story to a generation used to guzzling up an entire season-long narrative in one deliciously-satisfying hit, but you only have to watch “Chapter 9: The Marshall” to appreciate why this is but one of the very smart things that this Jon Favreau guided series does so very well
Rich in lush visual imagery and a soundtrack that tells as much of a story as the actors who brings a part of the Star Wars universe to life before us, “Chapter 9: The Marshall” is proof positive that The Mandalorian has lots none of its evocative, moody vivacity nor its power to tell deeply moral and affecting stories.
The episode opens in a part of a major urban centre that has seen far better days, with Mando aka Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) walking graffiti-covered alleyways with The Child aka Baby Yoda following behind in his repulsorlift cradle while red-eyes creatures watch menacingly from the many shadows.
He arrives at a door to be greeted by a Twi’lek doorma who ushers Din and The Child into an energetic, clearly underground fighting arena where an Abyssin gangster Gor Koresh may have information on other Mandalorians who may know from which planet and people The Child hails.
It is Din’s sacred new mission given to him by The Armourer, and when Koresh betrays him, he thinks fatally, you know that this won’t end well for one party, and yes, it won’t be Din.
Just after all hell breaks loose, and just before Koresh dies a horrible, flesh-tearing death – not, it must be pointed at Din’s hand; Din promises he won’t be the one to kill Koresh and a man of honour to the end, this is precisely what happens … but he said nothing about someone, or rather something else, doing the deed – it turns out there is a Mandalorian on Tatooine, an exciting development not just because here’s the lead Din needs but because it gives us a chance, once again, to go back to the planet which is regarded most fondly by this reviewer.
And what a glorious return it is.
We meet once again with Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris) and her comedically-inclined droids and find out that along with Mos Eisley, there are other towns including Mos Pelgo where the reported other Mandalorian lives.
Seeing Mos Eisley again is a supreme treat, as is watching Tusken Raiders atop their Bantha steeds and seeing the vast, sweeping expanse of Tatooine’s twin-sun baked deserts and the arrival in Mos Pelgo, which feels and looks a Wild West town which is barely getting by but doin as well as can be expected in the harsh conditions, honestly feels like coming home especially if you have been witness to the wonders of the Star Wars universe since 1977 when A New Hope first blew our tiny, happy minds with George Lucas’s expansively-realised space western.
The episode gives every impression of proceeding at a calm and measured pace, matching Din’s approach to everything bar fighting where he is decisively fast-moving and effective, but in short order, we see him come into conflict with the Mandalorian, played by Tim Olpihant, who is not a fellow member of the order at all, but a Marshall who bought the armour when he was saved by Jawas from dying in the merciless desert.
Din, of course, has to take the armour back to the order and is prepared to fight Cobb Vanth, as the Marshall is known, to do it, but fate intervenes and Din and Cobb end up joining with Tusken Raiders in an unheard-of alliance to rid the surrounding area and the town of a Krayt Dragon, a monstrously huge serpent of the sands who eats banthas, and possibly humans, with alacrity.
What unfolds then is best left to the viewing but suffice to say, that “Episode 9” delivers a powerful piece of storytelling that encapsulates much of what makes Star Wars such a compelling franchise for so many people.
We witness two odd couple souls coming together and becoming not simply not enemies but comrades in arms who together, much like Luke, Leia and Han best a terrible evil for the greater good.
Din’s honour and powerful sense of personal integrity is very much on display as is his guardianship of The Child which is beyond touching to witness and inspiring in every sense of the word.
He may walk with quiet finality and gentle force of presence but Din is a compelling character who commands your attention wherever he goes; he is the reason why The Mandalorian, which is realised such cinematic grandeur that it sweeps you into its world like few TV shows can manage, is one of the watercooler hits of Peak TV.